Danish court halts sales of book written by former spy boss (updated)

Jakob Scharf's "Ten Years With the PET"

Jakob Scharf’s “Ten Years With the PET”

A court in Denmark has issued an injunction that prevents retail outlets from selling a book written by the former director of the country’s domestic intelligence agency. Titled Seven Years with the PET, the book is based on a series of interviews with Jakob Scharf, who directed Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET) from 2007 to 2013. The book was scheduled for general release in bookstores across the country on October 17 by its publisher, People’s Press. By the end of the first week of October, the Copenhagen-based publisher had already supplied 5,000 copies of the book to 40 bookstores across Denmark, and several copies had already found their way into the hands of readers.

But last Friday night, the PET filed a request for an injunction to be placed on retail sales of the book, arguing that its pages might contain information pertaining to state secrets. The injunction was granted by a court in Copenhagen overnight, and communicated in the early hours of Saturday morning to the publisher, two online retailers and over 40 bookstores. The PET is listed as the requester of the injunction, and a rarely used ‘state secrets’ clause is given as justification for the urgent measure. On Saturday, the current director of the PET, Finn Borch Andersen, spoke to Denmark’s TV2 channel about the injunction. He told the television station that his agency filed the injunction after commercials appeared on television, advertising the book as “an exposure of PET operations”. He added that PET personnel “are currently reading” the book and that the agency will ask for the injunction to be lifted if no sensitive information is found.

But on Monday, Danish newspaper Politiken said it would defy the court injunction and publish excerpts of Scharf’s book. Speaking on the same day, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Christian Jensen, dismissed the ban, which he said “directly attacks the fundamental liberties on which our open society and free press depends”. Politiken had been scheduled to serialize Scharf’s book and was among the recipients of the court injunction.

The PET made headlines in 2012, after it was revealed that one of its double agents, Morten Storm, successfully infiltrated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The revelation caused controversy in Denmark because of Storm’s admission that he broke domestic and international law in the course of his activities, and led to a pledge by the country’s justice minister to impose more governmental control over the PET. Scharf, who led the agency from 2007 to 2013, was head of the organization after Denmark became targeted by Islamist extremists, following the publication in 2005 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The latter is considered sacrilegious by literalist Muslims, including organizations that espouse militant versions of Islam.

Update Oct. 11, 2016, 12:35 GMT: It appears that Politiken proceeded to publish nearly the entire book on Sunday and Monday. The PET has just announced that it will withdraw its injunction request against the publication of the book, because it cannot be practically enforced at this point.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 October 2016 | Permalink